What trademark means
A trademark is a sign capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one enterprise from those of other enterprises, according to World Intellectual Property Organization. A mark is a means for consumers to identify and distinguish goods or services
in the market. In most cases, trademark protects a name or logo.
Why trademark is important
Trademark is important to business organizations. Organizations usually use a unique identity for goods or services. Trademark allows the organization to maintain the unique identity. Consumers could establish a relationship with the mark. Due to protection, organizations can prevent potential competitors from using the same identity. In certain case, a similar identity is not allowed.
Organizations can share an identity through a license or franchise. In return for a modest royalty, partnerships can be formed to leverage the use of trademark and its related model. A franchisor can license out the brand to several franchisees who are willing to use the known brand. Hence, trademark is a criterion for franchise business.
When a business is sold, the business trademark can add a premium over the business value. Trademark can be valued as an intangible property. Trademark can be sold along the business or sold separately.
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What trademark can be registered
A trademark shall be distinctive and not descriptive over the use of goods or services. As an illustration, a fruit seller would not be able to trademark the name apple for fruits. It would not be fair for a seller to have a monopoly over the name apple for fruits. On the other hand, a computer maker could trademark the name apple for computers. There is no direct link between apple and computers other than the use as a brand.
Currently, trademark scope is expanded to protect distinctive signs such as 3D features, shades of color, sound and smell.
Where to start
What goods are being offered? Make note of names that are commonly used in the market.
Name: Use a unique name to represent your goods. A name directly associated with goods offered could invite refusal. Type of terms when thinking of a name:
- Generic term; a name directly related to a product. eg Corn Flakes for corn flakes.
- Composite term; a name associated with a product through continued use. eg Coca-Cola for cola drinks.
- Fanciful term; a new coined name. eg. Kodak for cameras.
- Arbitrary term; a name in common use but not related to product. eg. Apple for computers.
- Suggestive term; a name that suggest a product attribute. eg. Elephant for glues. (Elephant is a strong animal)
- Descriptive term; a name that describes a product. eg. Delicious for foods.
Logo: Design a unique logo to represent the goods. A logo that is not unique with respect of the goods would be refused.
To launch a new product, you would invest in product promotion and packaging. It would be costly to change the mark after you find that your intended mark is similar to a registered mark. Contact us to perform a trademark search to prevent such hassle.
How trademark is registered
Before filing a trademark, a trademark search is recommended. Organizations would wish to prevent using a similar mark. The earlier mark could prevent your mark from being used. The search could also reveal deficiencies that can be addressed before filing the trademark.
A trademark needs to be filed with a trademark office and a trademark examiner would be assigned to examine the contents of the trademark application. The trademark application would be accepted if the examiner is satisfied that trademark criteria are fulfilled. On the other hand, the trademark application is refused if the examiner finds that the trademark criteria is not fulfilled. A smart trademark agent is essential to respond to the refusal.
Accepted trademark proceeds to publication. The trademark is registered if there is no public opposition.
Which trademark symbol to use
Symbols are used to indicate the status or use of the mark. A TM symbol indicates that the mark is used as a trademark while a lesser-known SM symbol indicates that the mark is used as a service mark. An (R) symbol is used to indicate that the mark is registered. It is an offense to use a mark with (R) symbol if the mark is not registered.
Why appoint us
Trademark examiners are civil servants and Malay is their primary language. We are comfortable in handling communications in English, Malay or Chinese. Sometimes, we use Malay to convey a point to the examiners. Top organizations engage us to protect their brands.
The following video by UK IPO explores the importance of trademark.